Grieving the death of a child

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7542.620 (Published 16 March 2006)
Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:620

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  1. Beverley Raphael, professor of population mental health and disasters (b.raphael@uws.edu.au)
  1. University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia

    Health professionals need to be particularly sensitive to the needs of parents

    The death of a child brings profound distress and intense grief to the family, challenging all those involved in caring for the family through such times. That such grief can lead to suicide is known, but two cases in this week's BMJ show a particular hazard after a child has died at home: in both cases mothers committed suicide with drugs prescribed for the palliative care of their children (p 647).1

    There is substantial evidence from comparative and longitudinal studies that the grief of parents following the loss of a child is more intense and prolonged than that of other losses.2 3 Parental vulner-ability includes a heightened risk of suicide, especially in the first month, as shown in a nested case-control study of Danish longitudinal registers.4 Population based follow-up studies also show that anxiety and depression may last …

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